If you thought a giraffe had a long neck, think again: a dinosaur that roamed Southeast Asia 160 million years ago is now vying for the title of longest-necked animal.
An analysis of his neck bones and skull revealed that Mamanchisaurus sinocendorum (I swear we didn't make this name up!), had a 15-meter neck (!).
The fossilized remains of the Manchisaurus were discovered back in 1987, inside a 162-million-year-old rock in the Ogyyar Autonomous Region in northwestern China.
However, only recently have researchers re-examined the bones of the long-necked dinosaur.
The Manchisosaurus was one of the herbivorous dinosaur species from the sauropod family, which also reached lengths of 50 meters (from nose to tip of tail) and weighed more than 70 tons.
"Memanchisaurus may be the longest-necked sauropod yet discovered, but it's possible that there were even bigger, longer-necked animals roaming what is now China," Andrew Moore, a palaeontologist at Stony Brook University in New York, told the British Guardian.
"Our default assumption was that there were animals even bigger than him, just waiting to be discovered," says Dr. Moore.
A dinosaur with a neck 15 meters long (photo: Júlia d'Oliveira)
A long neck was a body feature that allowed sauropods to reach their enormous size.
Their neck span allowed them to cover and graze large areas of grass without moving too much - which meant they could consume large amounts of food without expending too much energy - pretty much every couch potato's dream.
Also the long neck allowed them to maintain a cool body temperature by increasing the surface area of their outer skin, similar to what happens to elephants with their big ears.
Scientists have wondered how these animals managed to live with such long necks and huge bodies without collapsing under their own weight or having their joints break, but X-ray scans of the Memanchisaurus show that their bones were hollow, up to two-thirds or three-quarters of their volume—a similar feature seen in birds, which reduces their weight and allows them to fly.
Such a hollow structure of bones is apparently susceptible to fracture, however, Memanchisaurus had transverse ribs that stiffened their neck, allowing it to carry a load.
"One of the most impressive features about sauropods is how light their bone structure was," notes Dr. Moore.